Brandon W. Jones’ All Woman and Springtime (Algonquin, review copy) follows two North Korean girls from an orphanage and factory where they work for “Dear Leader,” as they escape across the DMZ only to become sex workers in Seoul and then are shipped in a locked container to a Seattle brothel. Pretty Il-sun and math prodigy Gi are stunned to find themselves in the United States, “the world’s most evil empire and its citizens the most bloodthirsty, oafish, inhumane people on the planet. . . . How could they live through it?” How indeed? Jones’ absorbing story is revelatory at every turn with its unexpected and heartfelt perspectives on the idea of “freedom.” He writes with a simple eloquence of homelessness and humiliation in both countries, as well as of love and hope.
In Larry Baker’s slim novel, Love and Other Delusions (Ice Cube Press, paperback galley), Alice, who is married to Pete, relates her long affair with much-younger Danny to her therapist Kathy. Was it love or sex or both? How much of it is memory, how much invention? Alice is an accomplished fictionalist, a downright liar. She loves movies, as does Danny, who is working as a projectionist at an old movie house when they meet. Alice thinks of their romance as a movie. She, of course, is the star. Baker, who wrote one of my favorite novels, Flamingo Rising, set at a Florida drive-in, artfully uses film imagery to ponder illusion and delusion. R-rated.
Who Will Hear Your Secrets? (Johns Hopkins, paperback) is the seductive title of my friend Robley Wilson’s sixth collection of short stories, which encompass moments large, small and often mysterious. In “Dark,” the evocative lead-off tale, an American couple in Ireland encounter a deer and a former priest, all the while speculating about Irish politics and history. But they remain visiting outsiders: “Then they switched off the lights and dreamed the dreams of tourists, which frequently involved the appearance of persons who had been long dead, and who spoke to them as if there was no boundary between death and life.” Other favorites include “Petra,” “Charm,” and “The Climate in Florida,” which deftly explores the state’s now-infamous “stand your ground” gun culture when a woman decides to get a gun. Wilson is right on target.